The top dog among PC OEMs plans to exercise Microsoft's downgrade rights to sell custom-built PCs with Windows XP until at least July 30, 2009, more than a year after Microsoft's official June 30 deadline.
Hewlett Packard is giving customers the option of buying PCs with XP Professional pre-installed through what it calls a 'custom factory downgrade,' in which HP, acting on behalf of its customers, exercises the downgrade rights that Microsoft offers with Windows Vista Business and Ultimate editions and ships PCs with custom-built XP images.
"This type of downgrade happens in our factory, where machines are built with custom XP images pre-installed," said Lance Stevens, software product marketing manager for business PCs at HP, Palo Alto, Calif.
Downgrade rights, which Microsoft also offers to volume licensing customers, give users the ability to roll back to the previous version of the product they're using. Downgrade rights aren't new, but they're receiving unprecedented attention due to the market's icy response to Vista.
HP also offers XP through 'field downgrades,' which are available for customers that bought PCs with Vista pre-installed and have a Vista certificate of authenticity (COA), Stevens said.
Field downgrades are performed at the customer or HP reseller's site using Microsoft-supplied downgrade media, Stevens said. But after January 31, 2009, Microsoft won't permit HP and other OEMs to market machines with the field downgrade kit included.
However, Stevens says HP will still be able to market availability of the custom image services after that date, and last week, HP said it plans to sell PCs pre-installed with XP Professional on its business desktops, notebooks and workstations until July 30, 2009.
Stevens declined to comment on whether HP might offer the custom image option beyond that date, saying only that it'll depend on customer feedback.
"Our belief is that the acceptance of Vista will go up as the availability of SP1 permeates through the system until July 2009," Stevens said.